Magic Tuber Stringband


This morning brings one of the most inspired new pickups for Thrill Jockey over the last couple of years, and a band that’s consistently been on my speakers. North Carolina’s Magic Tuber Stringband fills the room to the rafters, despite their sleight stature as a duo. Echoing local legends like Black Twig Pickers, but pushing well beyond the bounds of standard bluegrass fare, the band set out to redefine the work of a modern stringband. In the process, they’ve drawn quite a few compatriots into the mix. Members of Sluice and Weirs sit in on sessions, and touring mainstay Mike DeVito adds percussion in concert with the natural patter of field recordings. Another local, Crowmeat Bob, adds clarinet and sax, while Andy McLeod and Dan Patridge add strings and saw respectively. The resulting album springboards off of their past explorations of the traditional, the spiritual, and the sublime to create an album that’s steeped in history but experimental at heart.

Unlikely touchstones rear their heads on Needlefall, with the band citing Don Cherry and Terry Riley as inspiration, especially within their realms of free improvisation. Free forms are applied to the album, but like fellow academic expansionists Modern Nature, the band directs the flow through prompts and musical roadmaps. Thus, the album becomes far more than a folk or bluegrass bounty, though it is certainly that at heart. The band sheds some of their lighter lopes from the past in favor of dark passages that pit saw and strings, winds and wind against one another. Neelefall is an album that pulls the pulse from the dirt, exploring a natural thrum that lights the synapses. It is a bluegrass bounty that reaches for the infinite.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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